Conversation with Josh Harris: The evolution of Siler Area Chamber of Commerce

By Gene Galin

Siler City, NC – In a candid conversation with Josh Harris, the Executive Director and CEO of the Siler Area Chamber of Commerce, the journey of the Chamber’s inaugural year unfolds. From his transition from athletic director at Jordan Matthews high school to leading the Chamber, to the pivotal role of agriculture in Chatham County, Harris provides insights into the Chamber’s mission, challenges, and future endeavors.

A Shift Towards Community Engagement

Taking the helm in June of the previous year, Harris embarked on a new chapter, leaving behind his role as an athletic director at Jordan Matthews. The decision stemmed from a quest for better work-life balance, driven by familial obligations and a desire for more time with his children. Reflecting on his tenure at Jordan Matthews, Harris acknowledges the dedication demanded by such roles, particularly in the realm of high school athletics.

The Birth of Siler Area Chamber of Commerce

The genesis of the Siler Area Chamber of Commerce traces back to the visionary efforts of its board of directors, igniting the flame of possibility a year or two prior. Harris joined the journey in January, aligning with the Chamber’s mission to represent the diverse interests of western Chatham County. With a focus extending beyond Siler City, the Chamber aims to foster connections across the region, acknowledging the integrated nature of communities within the county.

Agriculture: A Pillar of Chatham County

Central to the Chamber’s agenda is the celebration and support of Chatham County’s agricultural heritage. With roots embedded in a family farm spanning six generations, Harris brings a personal connection to the agricultural landscape. Recognizing the economic significance of agriculture in the county’s history and future, the Chamber strives to bridge the gap between tradition and progress.

Nurturing Innovation in Agriculture

Amidst the evolving agricultural landscape, Harris emphasizes the importance of educational resources and community connections in empowering local farmers. Encouraging innovation and diversification, the Chamber seeks to equip farmers with tools to adapt to changing markets while preserving the essence of Chatham County’s agrarian identity.

Wake Up Wednesday: Fostering Community Engagement

In a bid to enhance community engagement, the Chamber launched Wake Up Wednesday sessions, drawing inspiration from a similar initiatives in Pittsboro. Held monthly at the Cowboy Cafe, these gatherings offer a platform for networking and dialogue, transcending Chamber membership to embrace the wider community. Attendees have 30 seconds to deliver their best pitch for their business or organization. With a modest entry fee, attendees relish in breakfast and interactive discussions, fostering connections that resonate beyond business transactions. The cost is $7 cash or $8 if using the Chamber’s online registration.  You must pay regardless of if you eat.

A Vision for Growth

As the Chamber reflects on its inaugural year, Harris envisions a future marked by continued community engagement and strategic partnerships. With a commitment to amplifying the voices of western Chatham County, the Chamber remains steadfast in its mission to navigate the intersection of tradition and progress, working to ensure a vibrant future for generations to come.

In the words of Harris, “Just seeing the community connect is really cool… It’s a simple thing that you can put together that has a big impact on the business community.”

Watch on YouTube – Part 1 Conversation with Siler Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Josh Harris – 4.17.24

00:14 Transition from athletic director to CEO of Silers City Chamber of Commerce for work-life balance and family time

  • Josh Harris transitioned from being the athletic director at Jordan Matthews to becoming the CEO of Silers City Chamber of Commerce for better work-life balance and family time.
  • The Silers City Chamber of Commerce has experienced growth with close to 80 members in its first year, focusing on connecting and supporting businesses in the Western Chatham area.

02:25 Josh Harris discusses his involvement with the Chamber of Commerce

  • Josh Harris talks about his background, education, and previous experiences playing sports
  • Josh Harris explains how the Chamber of Commerce effort started and his decision to join despite working at a school

04:25 Promoting Western Chadam County’s interests

  • The mission is to represent the diverse needs of Western Chatham County and build connections within the community.
  • They successfully organized the first agricultural impact event, highlighting the importance of agribusiness in the county.

06:30 The impact of agriculture and the need for blending change with the agricultural character of the community

  • The importance of preserving local farms and providing them with information and opportunities to adapt
  • Bringing in speakers and events to bridge the gap between incoming development and the agricultural community

08:29 Adapting to change in agriculture for future sustainability.

  • Managing a 350-acre family farm with grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, and wood-raised pork.
  • Recognizing the need for innovation and adapting to new ideas in the agricultural community.

10:34 Chamber aims to support farmers for sustainable growth

  • Chamber focuses on providing knowledge, tools, and resources to help farmers make informed decisions
  • Goal is to build connections, encourage direct marketing, and support local aggro business industries for mutual benefits

12:43 Agri-tourism and non-processed foods are growing trends in farming.

  • Farmers are encouraged to explore options beyond traditional farming, such as agri-tourism and niche markets like direct-to-consumer butchery.
  • Consumers are increasingly drawn to non-processed, whole foods for their nutrient density, driving the demand for locally sourced, farm-direct products.

14:50 Implementing Wake Up Wednesday in Sol City area

  • Josh Harris was inspired by the Wake Up Wednesday session in Pittsboro and decided to bring it to the Siler City area.
  • The event takes place on the first Wednesday of each month at the Cowboy Cafe and is open to everyone, not just Siler Area Chamber members.

16:49 Monthly Wake up Wednesday event at Cowboy Cafe

  • Doors open at 8:00 on the first Wednesday of every month
  • Community connections and business opportunities highlighted

18:35 Registration process for attending events

  • Attendees can show up at the event without prior registration
  • Alternatively, attendees can register online for $8 to avoid processing fees